Dying Forest: One Year To Save The Amazon

Posted on Tuesday, July 25 at 09:33 by 4Canada
It is a sign that severe drought is returning to the Amazon for a second successive year. And that would be ominous indeed. For new research suggests that just one further dry year beyond that could tip the whole vast forest into a cycle of destruction. Just the day before, top scientists had been delivering much the same message at a remarkable floating symposium on the Rio Negro, on whose strange black waters this capital city of the Amazon stands. They told the meeting - convened on a flotilla of boats by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of the Greek Orthodox Church, dubbed the "green Pope" for his environmental activism - that global warming and deforestation were rapidly pushing the entire enormous area towards a "tipping point", where it would irreversibly start to die. The consequences would be truly awesome. The wet Amazon, the planet's greatest celebration of life, would turn to dry savannah at best, desert at worst. This would cause much of the world - including Europe - to become hotter and drier, making this sweltering summer a mild foretaste of what is to come. In the longer term, it could make global warming spiral out of control, eventually making the world uninhabitable. Nowhere could seem further from the world's problems than the idyllic spot where Otavio Luz Castello lives. The young naturalist's home is a chain of floating thatched cottages that make up a research station in the Mamiraua Reserve, halfway between here and Brazil's border with Colombia. Rare pink river dolphin play in the tranquil waters surrounding the cottages, kingfishers dive into them, giant, bright butterflies zig-zag across them and squirrel monkeys romp in the trees on their banks. And an 18ft black caiman answers, literally, to the name of Fred; gliding up to dine abstemiously on sliced white bread when called. There is little to suggest that it may be witnessing the first scenes of an apocalypse. The waters of the rivers of the Amazon Basin routinely fall by some 30-40 feet- greater than most of the tides of the world's seas - between the wet and dry seasons. But last year they just went on falling in the worst drought in recorded history. In the Mamiraua Reserve they dropped 51 feet, 15 feet below the usual low level and other areas were more badly affected. At one point in the western Brazilian state of Acre, the world's biggest river shrank so far that it was possible to walk across it. Millions of fish died; thousands of communities, whose only transport was by water, were stranded. And the drying forest caught fire; at one point in September, satellite images spotted 73,000 separate blazes in the basin. http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0723-03.htm [Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on July 26, 2006]

Note: http://www.commondreams...

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